Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Too Much?

In his first major press conference, new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver yesterday announced that the L.A. Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling has been banned from the sport and will be fined $2.5 million. And if 75% of the NBA owners agree, Sterling will be forced to sell the Clippers.


Y’know, this ol’ Captain has had some bad hair days before, but this is amazing!

For all my Luddite readers out there, here’s a brief recap of where we’ve been this week:
-An audio tape was released to TMZ and Deadspin of Donald Sterling making some pretty racist statements. The source and circumstances of the tape are still unknown, but it was enough to set Sterling’s world on fire!
            -The team is angry, as is the Players Union.
            -Corporate sponsors have fled like rats off a burning ship.
            -Rev. Al Sharpton and all the usual “talking heads” on TV are ranting.
            -Even President Obama weighed in with his opinion.
            -Pressure was applied to the NBA to do something.

And now they have.

But, at the risk of being lumped together with the likes of Bill Kristol and Donald Trump – Lord forgive me! – the Captain wonders if perhaps the NBA has over-reacted.

The fine of $2.5 million is the largest the NBA by-laws will allow. The Commissioner seemed to regret that it could not be larger. That fine will have little impact on Sterling, who is reportedly worth $1.9 billion. In fact, in the past four years, he has give more than that to his 31-year-old [alleged] girlfriend.

So says Sterling’s estranged wife in their divorce proceedings.

But a lifetime ban from the NBA?

That means he cannot attend games – even practice sessions – of the team he owns. He cannot set foot on NBA property – again, some of which he owns. He can have no contact with any of his team, his coaches, his front office, etc. – all of whom receive paychecks with his name on them.

And if Commissioner Silver has his way, Sterling will be forced to sell his team, which he bought in 1981 for $12.5 million and has turned into a $575 million gold mine!

All this came about because Donald Sterling was somehow recorded making racist statements over the telephone to his [alleged] girlfriend – who happens to be part black and part Mexican… and maybe a little silicone too.

V. Stiviano’s attorney insists Stiviano’s relationship with Sterling was professional, not sexual or romantic – she was doing “clerical work” for him.

Okay. Whatever.

Sure, Sterling has had some trouble in the past for racist statements and discrimination. For instance, in 2006 he was charged with discrimination for refusing to rent units in his housing developments to blacks and Hispanics, reportedly saying they stunk up the place and attracted rats. He settled with the US Department of Justice for $2.765 million.

But folks, the Captain has lived in Memphis, where good Christian white folks built and continue to foster private academies in response to the racial integration of the public schools; where realtors still “redline” properties indicating where they will and will not show houses to people of color; where entire neighborhoods of white people have moved away when people of color have moved in (some completely abandoning their properties instead of trying to sell them).

I’m not saying any of this is acceptable. It is not. What I am saying is that racism is not unique to Donald Sterling.

ESPN host Bomani Jones called out Sterling in 2006 for discriminatory practices in housing units he owned. And in response to the current situation, Jones points back to the housing discrimination as a much more significant issue.

"We hear all this stuff that goes on in Chicago and all these people who die, who lose their lives. All that stuff that's happening in Chicago is a byproduct of housing discrimination. … Housing discrimination is the biggest reason that we can point to historically for why we've got all these dead kids in Chicago fighting for turf, fighting for real estate with poor accommodations and facilities and everything that you're supposed to have in a city, poor education, all of this because the tax dollars and everything else decided to move away."
 "When we start looking at all these people in these lists who are dying as an economic byproduct of the people like Donald Sterling and you now have a problem because, oh my God, he said something that intimated that he doesn't respect his players? I'm calling you out as a fraud."
Perhaps the donations Sterling’s foundation made to the United Negro College Fund, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum for Tolerance, Special Olympics, and the Union Rescue Mission (just to name a few) were simply payoffs to get people off his back.

And maybe the 2008 Humanitarian of the Year Award given to Sterling by the Black Business Association was a fluke. As was the 2009 NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award… and the second NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award that was scheduled to be presented to him on May 15th of this year (which has since been withdrawn).

Ironically, the NAACP has strongly condemned Sterling in a recent letter to its constituents: “The saddest chapter in this story is that the remarks by Mr. Sterling are not at all surprising, given his history of hateful comments for people of other races.” 

 But the irony was not lost on them: 
“We also know there is disappointment that such a man was to be honored with an award by the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP. There is no excuse for this. We are investigating the shortcomings in the process that allowed this award to be proposed for Donald Sterling. You demand better of America’s oldest and boldest civil rights organization, and we will do better.” 
I understand the NBA’s position. It’s bad P.R. The Commissioner felt something had to be done or this unfortunate incident would create a ripple effect that could cripple the NBA.

But after listening to what Sterling actually said, I’m wondering if The Commissioner might have over-reacted just a tad bit, levying such a heavy penalty only three days after the audio tape was exposed. After all,

-Sterling didn’t call anyone a “n----r” like Paula Deen did.

-He didn’t suggest that blacks would be better off if slavery was still legal, as rancher Cliven Bundy and “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson have recently suggested.

-He didn’t call anyone a “subhuman mongrel” like Ted Nugent did, referring to none other than the President of the United States – an attitude which, by the way, got Nugent a seat of honor at the 2013 State of the Union Address, courtesy of some Republican allies in Congress.

-He didn’t associate blacks with crime like Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo did recently, tweeting, “Let’s be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/possible exception of increase in streetcrime.”

-He didn’t claim that “racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime” and are more “prone to commit acts violence” as did Judge Edith Jones (Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Houston) in a commencement address last year at University of Pennsylvania. 
-He didn’t call anyone a “Black Hole” (surely an astronomical reference) as that blowhard Rush Limbaugh did in reference to CNN’s Don Lemon… right before adding that Lemon “sleeps with men… proudly”.

What Sterling said was that he didn’t want his [alleged] girlfriend posting pictures of herself with blacks on Instagram, and bringing blacks with her to the Clippers games.

I’m not saying that Donald Sterling is an angel. I’m not even saying he was “misunderstood”. And from everything I have read and heard about him these past four days, I have no doubt he is a racist.  

But as demonstrated above, most of white America is too. We just don’t get recorded saying what we think.

But this is America.

And in America, we still have a Constitutional right to express our opinions.

No matter how ignorant or offensive our opinions may be.

I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it.

Commissioner Silver, now in his third month as head of the NBA, felt the need to assert himself. Good for him. And, honestly, I hope he doesn’t stop with Donald Sterling, but can rid the entire organization of racism.

Bringing in more minorities to the 98% white NBA owners group would be a good start.

But frankly, I doubt this penalty will change Donald Sterling’s mind on issues of race. In fact, it will most likely only inflame his hatred.

So lean in here for a moment and think with the Captain: what if instead of this “death penalty” sentence, The Commissioner had tried to redeem this man, offering him an option of counseling and sensitivity training over losing his team. That might have served Donald Sterling – and all of us – better in the long run.

But that was not the judgment. And most of the world is rejoicing that a terrible racist has been punished. We will all sleep better tonight.

Just realize that if Sterling is now forced to sell his team, he stands to make a $562.5 million profit.

That’s gotta hurt…

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ouch! That Hurts!

 In what can only be described as “the perfect storm”, a deadly combination of bad weather, disease, and Mexican drug cartels has brought the world to its knees.

Yes, I’m talking about the lime shortage!

This time last year, the Captain was buying large, healthy limes by the bag for about 30 cents apiece. In recent weeks, in grocery stores where limes can be found, these miserable specimens are selling for almost a dollar each.

And just in time for Mojito season too!

 Somebody needs to do something!

The problem, unfortunately, is not simple to fix. First, high winds and heavy rains hampered production, accompanied by a bacterial disease.

Second, according to the Wall Street Journal, a 40-lb. crate of limes is selling for about $100 – 4 times higher than normal – which means, according to WSJ, “By weight, Mexican limes are commanding a higher price than Mexican crude oil.”

Limes still make better margaritas!

This has caught the eye of Mexican drug cartels in Michoacan (a major lime-growing region), who are now hijacking shipments of limes. The cartel, oddly named the “Knights Templar”, claim to be fighting a Christian “crusade” against poverty, tyranny, and injustice.

Not sure this is them...
In fact, last June they hung the bodies of 21 “infidels” in the streets of Michoacan in just a single day to prove they are on the side of the people!

Well, not those people.

So the flow of limes from Mexico has been at least temporarily shut off.

Which means the locals they are supposedly fighting for are not being paid for their produce.

There is another factor, however, that cannot be ignored, that being U.S. lime production. And while I say it can’t be ignored, it really can be ignored because it’s almost non-existent.

In 2000, a citrus canker infested some of the limes in South Florida. The canker was not harmful to humans, but it created large, unsightly bumps on the limes and caused them to fall off the trees prematurely. Fearing the canker would spread to the $8.5 billion orange and grapefruit industry, the state order the destruction of all limes trees within 1,900 feet of an affected tree.

That would be the equivalent of the length of more than two football fields!

Needless to say, the production of limes in Florida was wiped out, and now more than 95% of the limes consumed in the U.S. are imported – mostly from Mexico.

The chart below shows the difference between U.S. production and imports since 1980.

And even more amazing, the chart also demonstrates the incredible success of Jimmy Buffett’s 1977 hit song “Margaritaville” – as U.S. consumption of limes has soared from 50 million pounds per year to more than 350 million pounds per year since the song was released!

So what’s a guy to do?

The Captain is feeling the scurvy coming on!

We can’t control the weather.

Or can we?

Unfortunately, it would take years for Florida to restore lime production – which they don’t want to do.

And I don’t think the U.S. is willing to take on a “lime war” with the cartels in Mexico.

We did such a good job with the war on drugs! 

The lime shortage has led at least one bar owner to take drastic measures.

Alexeis Filipello, who owns Dogwood in Oakland, Calif., said she has eliminated limes and lime drinks altogether "I'm not playing that game," she said in a story posted on the Alcademics site. "I hope Mexico has case upon case of rotting limes and the cartels are forced to sell drugs again instead of strong-arming lime farmers."

Well, there's that...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I Love Women!

In the news this week, five former members of the Buffalo Bills cheerleading squad have filed suit against the franchise.

The complaint of the five “Jills” (I’m not making this up) is that the Buffalo Bills forced them work for no pay, buy their own uniforms, and make public appearances “at which they are subject to groping and sexual comments”.

I’m thinking golf tournaments not night clubs, but I may be wrong.

They also have to take a “jiggle test”.

The Captain is intrigued!

A representative for the Buffalo Bills says the cheerleaders are “independent contractors”, not employees of the NFL franchise. Thus, their case has no merit.

This could get complicated, dear reader, so pay attention.

First, the Captain wants to know why these women would agree to take a job for which there is no pay, and for which they had to shell out as much as $650 per season for uniforms. I’m pretty sure the Buffalo Bills football players do not do this. In fact, defensive end Mario Williams was paid a carefully-negotiated $6.5 million last year.

I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure the cheerleader applicants were told about their anticipated salary – or lack thereof – up front.

“It’s a great job. You get to hang out with the football players, travel around the country representing the team, wearing next to nothing while you freeze your assets off. The salary? Oh, don’t you worry your pretty little head about that. Did I mention hanging out with the football players?” 

Yeah, I don’t think so. And yet these five women –and dozens of others like them – took the “job” anyway.

Case dismissed.

As for the groping, sexual comments, and “jiggle test”, that does need to be addressed.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to take your complaint seriously when you’re dressed like this:

I’m not saying that just because you are dressed a certain way gives a man the right to grope you. My previous comments concerning the recent discussions about rape make that very clear. Regardless of what a woman is wearing or not wearing, regardless of where she is or what she is doing or whether she is sober, drunk, or even passed out, a man has no right to touch her – anywhere – unless invited by her to do so.

Sadly, Australian singer Iggy Azalea was recently forced to make the decision to stop “crowd surfing” during her concerts because concert goers (both male and female) were trying to stick their fingers into her lady parts.

Dude, that is so not cool!

That said, cheerleaders in particular have voluntarily entered into a profession that is intentionally sexual by nature.

But before getting into that, let me address the sexual objectification of women in today’s society.

I want to begin with the multiple instances in which mothers have been hassled, harassed, and otherwise marginalized for breast-feeding their babies in public.

Because, you know, “Boobies”.

But that’s what “Boobies” are for. Breast-feeding is a natural biological function of women’s breasts. That’s why they’re there; that’s what they do.

Facebook has a policy about the showing of women’s nipples on the popular social medium. Yet men’s nipples are apparently acceptable. Now, male nipples look amazingly similar to women’s – except they serve no real purpose other than to break up space on a man’s chest. So why are male nipples socially acceptable and women’s are not?

Because “Boobies”!

You may recall that when John Ashcroft was the U.S. Attorney General (2001-2005), the U.S. government paid $8,000 for drapes to cover the partial nudity of two aluminum art deco statues in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice. 
I see two boobies in this photo!
But it’s not just breasts. The First Mate loves telling the story of a great aunt who was arrested on a California beach back in the day for showing too much ankle.

Yes, ankle.

Some people can get excited about almost anything!

I understand some men get seriously turned on by Jessica Rabbit!

Unfortunately today, an image of a naked or partially naked female body – whether a painting or a sculpture or a photograph – is quickly labeled obscene. In large part, this is the work of prudes who don’t want others to see nakedness and “Boobies”. But the reality is that another part of our society has become so depraved that they can’t look at the female form without thinking about sex.

And let’s be honest. Who really cares about the Academy Awards and other such self-congratulatory Hollywood hoopla? The real reason we watch these marathon broadcasts is just to see if there is a costume malfunction or an unintentional – or intentional – celebrity nipple slip!

Because “Boobies”!

Did you know that in both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, students were expelled from school last year for wearing “I (heart) Boobies” bracelets to promote breast cancer awareness? (Keep A Breast Foundation) Nary a nipple was seen, but the school administration lost it just over the word “Boobies”.

“Houston, we have a problem!”

Knowing this bout us, the media uses the female form to sell us all kinds of products we don’t need. You’ll find beautiful, scantily-clad women gracing the cover of almost every magazine – even those that have nothing to do with beautiful, scantily-clad women. Sadly, many of these images have been manipulated computer-enhanced to represent someone else’s idea of what “flawless beauty” is.

Television news and talk shows keep our attention by making their female employees wear impossibly short skirts, which results in the “hands in the lap to hide the gap”, the constant tugging down of the hemline, and the frequently-occurring money shot.

Just Google “Fox News Upskirts” if you don’t believe me.

Or so I’ve heard… ahem…

Don’t get me wrong. The Captain enjoys a beautiful woman just like most other American men. Women can be sexy. Clothed or unclothed. I’ve got no problem with that. Just check my past blogs.

But women are not merely sexual objects to be leered at, taken, obtained, used, squeezed, groped, or otherwise abused. Women are human beings who have the same inalienable rights as men to express their selves, their sexuality, and their natural biological functions as they so choose. As a society, we need to dial it down just a little bit.

Bottom line, guys: look (if you must) but don’t touch. She may give herself to you, but you may not “take” her.

As for the disgruntled Buffalo Jills: the Captain thinks you are simply gold-diggers looking for a big payoff. Shame on you.

In the same way that you agreed to work a “job” that offers no pay and no benefits, you also agreed to do a job that is very much hyper-sexualized. And you knew that. You agreed to wear the scanty costumes at a decidedly testosterone-and-alcohol-driven event, to jump around, kick up your L’eggs, and shake your breasts pom-poms to get the crowd aroused.

Yes, aroused! That’s what you were hired for.

Like the strippers at The Pink Pony, you willingly agreed to become sexual objects for a crowd of thousands of drunken Bills fans and hundreds more in the television viewing area. [*Snark!*] When the TV cameras zoom in on you during the game, they’re not looking for your college diploma; they’re checking out your 38-Cs that are bursting forth from the top of your skin-tight uniform.

How can you claim that you did not know that when you signed on?

And if you seriously thought you could go out onto the football field and “shake it like you’re gonna break it” without a man wanting to touch it, then you’re an idiot!